Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Children placed in mental health inpatient care may be at risk of serious rights violations, according to a new charity report.
Released by children's rights charity Article 39, the report says that around 3,500 children held as 'informal patients' may not be receiving necessary legal safeguards outlined in the Mental Health Act 1983.
These safeguards include having the right to an independent mental health advocate and being provided information about their rights – safeguards the report says are frequently ignored.
Informal patients have the right to leave hospital whenever they like. However, many children do not understand their rights and fear being 'sectioned' if they try to leave.
Based on views and experiences of children, as told by their advocates, the report states that many children remain in hospital for too long, often far from their own homes, and in environments unsuitable for children, with many placed in adult wards.
The report also found that around 1,000 patients under 20 years of age are subjected to physical, chemical, or mechanical restraint, or they are kept in isolation.
“These findings follow a number of reports this year, including from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Children’s Commissioner for England and the Care Quality Commission, which all highlight that children in mental health hospitals, including those with autism and/or learning disabilities, are at risk of very serious rights violations," said Kamena Dorling, author of the report. "Despite successive strong commitments from the government in recent years, the quality of care and treatment for children and young people who have mental ill health remains inadequate and is often scandalous.
"It is time for the government to take real action to ensure that children receive the best possible care and support, close to home and always in settings designed with and for children," added Dorling. "The government must commence the legislation passed in 2018 on use of restraint and must implement the recommendations of the Independent Mental Health Act review, also issued in 2018, as a matter of urgency, particularly around ensuring all children can access high quality independent advocacy.”